Right now, the Republican Party is in despair. Those of us who are actual conservatives are left feeling frustrated, depressed, and somewhat hopeless at the thought of a wolf in sheep’s clothing winning the party nomination (and likely going on to lose in the general election, to add insult to injury). We understand the dangerous territory we would find ourselves in should our party elect a Republican nominee who is neither a Republican nor a decent human being.
But after attending CPAC this year, I feel encouraged. Of course, you are supposed to leave feeling inspired and renewed from the energy and the content of the speeches. Of course it was encouraging that Trump didn’t place first- or even second- in the CPAC straw poll, but there’s an even bigger picture here to consider with a deeper level of meaning.
What really struck me was the abundance of young conservatives who attended the Conservative Political Action Conference.
And almost none of them supported Trump, which is surprising given that Trump’s showmanship and television celebrity probably should be most appealing to young voters; sadly, almost all the Trump supporters I saw at CPAC were over fifty. But even this gives me hope.
At a time when the Republican Party is at a crossroads, and a time when young people are often (rightfully) criticized for being insufferable millennials who feel entitled to anything they want at any given time, here stands a growing group of smart, motivated, driven, politically active young people who understand the role of government.
In attendance were groups like Turning Point USA, who recruit young people by spreading the message of capitalism and fiscal responsibility. Future Female Leaders also claimed a big footprint at CPAC this year, not only selling a conservative message for young women, but also fashionable apparel so these young women can represent conservatism wherever they go (as an aside, I know from personal experience that the red elephant dress is a huge conversation starter).
Being at CPAC in general is, of course, an inspiring experience. Just being in the presence of so many other activists who believe in the same values and principles bring everyone a needed reminder that we are all in this fight together.
But even as we are inspired by the message, the reality is that the Trump thundercloud still threatens to drown us all. We still have an uphill battle; there is no guarantee we will win.
In the short-term future, that would be devastating to those of us who fight for actual conservatism. Those who are able to understand the repercussions understand that the Republican Party wouldn’t bounce back easily from that.
In the long-term future, there is still solace in the knowledge that conservative values are not becoming extinct. To the contrary, there is a growing group of young people who will continue to fight against the liberal agenda so many others are latching onto.
This isn’t to say the short-term future is doomed. In fact, I hold onto hope that the people of our party will prevail against Trump.
But it is so encouraging to know that either way – whether our party turns to the dark side or we all figure out the mistake before it’s too late – we have a group amassing that will continue to help us fight the ongoing battle against the liberal agenda. And from what I observed at CPAC, they will not be silenced easily.